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Russia bans 18 US officials in retaliation for Magnitsky Law

MOSCOW: Russia yesterday named 18 Americans banned from entering the country in response to Washington imposing sanctions on 18 Russians for alleged human rights violations.
The list released by the Foreign Ministry includes John Yoo, a former US Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former US Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center: retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson.
The move came a day after US announced its sanctions under the Magnitsky Law, named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $ 230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.
Neither Washington nor Moscow put high-ranking or politically prominent figures on their lists, perhaps aiming to limit the effect on US-Russian relations that have deteriorated, despite President Barack Obama’s initiative to “reset” relations with Moscow.
The Magnitsky Law infuriated Russian authorities, and Parliament quickly passed a retaliatory measure than banned Americans from adopting Russian children. Russia also has banned US funding for any non-governmental organization deemed to be engaging in politics.
“I think that both sides showed a definite restraint because in Washington and in Moscow there were hotheads demanding to inflate the list to an unthinkable size,” Parliament member Vyacheslav Nikonov, who focuses on foreign affairs, was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.
The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying there also is a “closed part” of the list of banned Americans and that the United States knows of its existence.

The US law in turn allows the administration to compile a separate classified list of Russian officials subject to visa bans.
The public US list includes Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, two Russian Interior Ministry officers who put Magnitsky behind bars after he accused them of stealing $ 230 million from the state. Two tax officials the lawyer accused of approving the fraudulent tax refunds, and several other Interior Ministry officials accused of persecuting Magnitsky, also were on the list. Absent were senior officials from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s entourage whom some human rights advocates had hoped to see sanctioned.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement yesterday that the US sanctions struck “a strong blow to bilateral relations and joint trust.”
The US Embassy in Moscow said it had no immediate comment.